On The Rise: Layan Al-Dabbous Is The Kuwaiti Designer With Something To Say
Meet designer, Layan Al-Dabbous, who began her brand with an illustration in a Parsons School of Design classroom. Her personal style and initiative emboldened her to further develop this doodle, “Claudette,” into not only a clothing brand, but also a movement and community.
Before moving to New York City, Al-Dabbous grew up in Kuwait and London where she realized the prevalent problem of mental health across both populations. She felt strongly about addressing these issues and uses “Claudette the Brand” as her platform to do so. Her purpose is greater than the clothing—she is creating an opportunity to access a supportive community.
Although Al-Dabbous’s brand has gained popularity with pop culture icons, she remains dedicated to its core foundation blocks. “Claudette the Brand” is a symbol of her own passion and hard work—wearing her designs means supporting a positive movement for young ambition.
You started your brand when you were just a student at Parsons, which is impressive. What drove you to take a doodle from class and turn it into something bigger?
I always envisioned having a platform that allowed me to speak on an international level. I just didn’t know how. When I drew Claudette in my media design class, I instantly knew that she had something to say. Now, Claudette acts as the catalyst that spreads my message.
Were you ever afraid people wouldn’t take you seriously because of your age? How did you overcome the fears of starting your own line?
I didn’t have any fears when it came to age because it should not be a factor when it pertains to accomplishing your dreams. In the beginning, developing Claudette was lonely and difficult. I made sacrifices in various aspects of my [personal] life, but trusted the process and overcame self doubt through my strong belief in Claudette The Brand.
Where did you grow up? How do you think that environment shaped your perspective and ultimately the vision you have for your brand?
I grew up between Kuwait and London. Kuwait and London both have major mental health problems. Millions of people in Kuwait suffer from depression. In the UK, people are experiencing mental health problems as young as 16. That’s why Claudette The Brand puts emphasis on the epidemic.
When did you first encounter streetwear and what interested you most about the style?
I’ve always been a bit of a tom boy ever since I was little. I’d be the kid in the baggy sweaters and sneakers who always looked really comfortable. I always felt myself in that style of clothing and I never really changed.
Which designers inspire and influence your creativity?
Honestly, the way Virgil Abloh and other creatives that worked closely with Kanye as part of the DONDA team have been a huge inspiration. I admire the way they started small with screen printing cool designs on sweaters to [now] being chosen as creative directors for major fashion brands.
Who is Claudette?
Claudette at her core is a movement. A character that represents the following:
Authenticity and living life and realizing how similar/connected we are.
When people wear your brand, what do you want them to know they are representing? What does wearing Claudette ultimately stand for?
Wearing Claudette means that you believe in authenticity. You’re not afraid to take the first step in pursuing your goals. When you wear her you stand for change that benefits you and the world around you.
Because social media creates a platform for brands to market themselves, the competition to stand out is intense. How do you maintain an original identity for Claudette and why do you feel your brand is recognized more than others?
When I created Claudette I designed her with so much passion and love. She came from my core, so that’s why I feel the character really resonates with people. They can feel the emotion behind it all. I’m not selling a product as much as I’m selling a movement and sense of community. I think that’s what sets my brand apart from others.
Some of the biggest icons in pop culture have already sported your brand like Nicki Minaj, the Hadids, the Jenners, and Luka Sabbat to name a few. How do you hope to further develop your brand and what is your next step?
I am so excited and sometimes surprised when organic things happen or when one of my collection shows up on someone that is not suspected. That is the real beauty of Claudette and her message that it doesn’t matter celebrity or a day to day person she wants to make sure that her voice of help and just being there is viewed.
Mental Health can be changed just doing the simple things. I am grateful for all that wears Claudette no matter who it is. It is just an honor. We are planning on doing more pop-ups, a fashion show in London and getting our online store up and running. This last several months I have seen this is a business that’s making a difference. For that I am proud.
You’ve hosted pop-up events in New York and Miami. Can we expect another pop-up event in the near future?
Yes! I actually just hosted another back home in Kuwait and it was a lot of fun! I love having pop-ups in different parts of the world because it’s amazing to actually meet the people who follow the account, have real conversations and help take the brand to the next level.. thinking maybe London next.
Lastly, what is your end goal for Claudette as a brand?
I take it day by day, I like to live in the moment and not put pressure on anything. Ultimately, I’d love to have a couple pop-ups in Europe and the Middle East, get the website up, and hopefully help the community grow! Claudette will takeover just wait ;)
Images courtesy of Claudette
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